Thoughts on Marriage

A few days ago Holden wrote an honest and raw post about the difficulties of marriage and children.  Equally, truthful and perhaps more revealing were the comments. Both of which inspired me to take a shot at articulating my own relationship situation.

My wife and I have been together for over 11 years (married for four of them). We literally grew up together. We attended the same high school and the same University . We shared the same group of friends.  And for the most part been together every day for the last decade. A relationship like this has its own set of nuances we have to work through.

First, there is no mystery between us. For the most part we know everything about each other. Not just philosophically, but we literally know pretty much everything. She knows what I had for lunch yesterday. That can be both good and bad.

For example, we do not enjoy the veil of wonder between us that I witness some of my friends in new relationships enjoy. There is no self-created amazement, and no pretending that the other person is a God. Then again, we know each other better than any two people on earth can know one another – and we still love (and like) each other.

Second, even though my wife and I grew up together  – two people probably couldn’t be more different and have experienced life more differently. My wife is an artist, she feels deeply and shows emotion, she is caring and empathetic. My wife is silly and enjoys vampire movies. My wife will take two hours to hang a photo and will spend two days in an art museum. I hang all of my photos crooked, I workout 4-5 days a week, I’m impatient, business minded, and quick witted. Fills gaps, I guess.

It is strange sharing your life with someone. Because even though we have agreed to share our life – we are still two separate people. Two people with different ambitions, different motives and goals, and different interests. We are two people that live in the same house, agree to have dinner together every night, but in reality have our own lives. Our own lives that belong uniquely to each of us. And even with all of these differences we somehow work them out within the parameters of our own relationship universe.

At some point in a relationship I think people begin to forget this. That our significant others have a life too. But it’s too important to forget. I don’t know what works and what doesn’t. I have my own fair share of problems and struggles. But the one thing that I keep coming back to, that I keep trying to articulate, is that we have to recognize, respect, and nurture the fact that the person we have committed to having a relationship is his/her own person. My wife is a person. Her own person.

I’m not sure why this small fact resonates with me. I think it reminds me that she has her own things going on – internally and externally. It reminds me to be a little more understanding. It reminds me to be patient and to be more supportive. It reminds me to be more compassionate and a better husband.

Does my wife hate being a mom?

I have no doubt that my wife loves our daughters more than anything in the world, but does she like being a mom?

Up until a few weeks ago, I was admittedly not around that much. I was on the road four days a week and locked in my office on the fifth day trying to wrap things up so that I didn’t spend the sixth and seventh days of the week also in my office.

Then suddenly, abruptly, I quit my traveling job for a local job. While I have a lot of great reasons and excuses for doing so, I really quit for two reasons- friends and family. I quit to work with my best friend, my co-author Atty during the day, and be at home with my wife and girls in the evening.

I figured, there is nothing more valuable in the world than spending time with those you love. But as of late, that time spent hasn’t been all sugar plums and sunshine.

Being home puts my home life into an entirely new perspective. Every day I come home to a frazzled, stressed out woman buried in dirty laundry, dishes and toys thrown in every direction. I’ve come to realize that my wife rarely seems all that happy. She sighs a lot, cries a lot, and complains a lot.

A big part of me wants to tell her to shut up and walk it off. To remind her that she doesn’t have to go to a job every day. But I guess maybe having a job would be better than being at home every day with the “damn kids” in her eyes.

My wife is a good mother. She’s attentive, affectionate and caring. But sometimes man, I just don’t know if maybe it wasn’t meant for her. If maybe she simply doesn’t have the nerves or grit to deal with it.

Someone who reads this might offer up kind advice and suggest I do things to ease the stress. But to be quite honest, I’m not sure what else I am to do. I cook dinner many evenings and tend to many chores after work. I encourage her have alone time every weekend. I let her go shopping, have weekend outings… hell, her friends and family dominate our social life.

But to no avail, the depressed attitude never seems to cease for very long. Sometimes I think maybe it is phase that simply has to pass. I convince myself that eventually the girls will both be in school, they’ll grow up and be out of her hair less and less… and maybe someday her attitude will brighten.

But to be completely honest, I want to tell my wife to quit being a fucking pussy.

To be boldly frank in this anonymous arena of thought, I want to tell her she has been given a great gift and opportunity. I want to remind her that some mothers are single and on food stamps. And that some parents are forced to work two mother fucking jobs, letting the microwaves serve up the warm meals and the TV tuck their little ones into bed while they’re working a second shift at the Shoney’s just to keep the lights on and rent paid in their dank little apartment.

But instead I find myself coming home, playing Gameboy and tuning it out. I don’t feel like battling her bad mood. I don’t feel like convincing her that things are great. I’m sick of being in charge of other people’s happiness. I have my own to worry about. Problem is, hers is directly linked to mine.

And now I feel like a completely insensitive, chauvinistic asshole. Yes, our kids are tough as nails. Yes, the life of a stay at home mom is tough, but so are all challenges worth taking on. What do you want me to say honey? Parenthood is tough! That’s why I opted to be the breadwinner in the relationship… alright, perhaps that was chauvinistic.

I guess the wise, emotionally adept, mature husband would sit his wife down and try to bring his wife to some miraculous realization that she’s actually got it pretty good. Ha!


New Job Jitters

A few weeks ago I started a new job at the firm where my co-author of this blog, Atty works. I’m actually his subordinate now, working in the same service line.

The pay is good, the career prospects seem bright, and my co-workers are polite, friendly and helpful. But for some reason, I feel out of place. Like I don’t quite belong.

The culture is much different here. Much more proper, or perhaps white collar feeling. My last job would be considered a white collar job as well. Both were professional services, consulting, and required you to wear a tie from time to time, but it is amazing to me how different the culture and personalities are between an accounting firm and a technology services firm.

The girls are definitely much prettier at the new job, which I do enjoy if only for the sake of people watching around the office. But I admittedly miss that geek vibe I used to get at work much more. I miss the techies showing off their newest phones, asking you to meet them in the hotel lounge after work for Nintendo 3DS multiplayer sessions or just nerding out over their ridiculous video cards and other computer hardware.

Oddly enough, I think the whole reason I got this new job is because I’m one of these guys. I’m a geek.

I think I’m going to try hard not to lose that identity. Not that it was ever completely me anyway, but I really enjoyed being part of that crowd. I don’t care about sports, movies, or what happened on The Bachelor last week.

I’m not so sure the stiff collared accountant/lawyer/auditor wears well on me anyway. I don’t mind it. I can adapt to it, but I definitely don’t want to lose myself to it or the culture.


On a tangent, or perhaps just diagonal. My first week on the job I felt something I hadn’t felt since I was a kid- that urge to either puke or shit my brains out on a regular basis.

When I was a kid I had a problem with anxiety. I used to overstress about things as trivial as the bus for school running late. Suddenly, I became this kid again. Unsure, unconfident and feeling small inside.

This is my third career and I’m only 30 years old! Three times now, I’ve started something fresh, not knowing what the hell I’m doing. Experience would tell me I became very good at what I did the last two times and quit on my own, so this third time, I’m going to really rock it since I only continue to build up in skills, education and experience.

I will succeed at this job. But this little twerp in the back of my mind screams FAILURE at me. He’s my childhood bully. This kid named David who used to spit snot balls in my hair and push me out of my seat on the bus. Who used to not let me take a seat next to him when the bus was completely full and make me stand in the aisle even as the bus started rolling down the street.

That kid tormented me. I used to pray for him. I would pray to God, as an elementary school aged child that he would help him. Later I found out his dad beat the shit out of him, not uncommon for the neck of the woods I grew up in.

David was always easily six inches taller than me. There was no way I could stand up to him. But he was just as fragile as I was. I was simply passing on the beatings from his father down to me.

I eventually overcame David as my bully. I eventually grew up and got taller than him. The same will apply with the new job and the little David taunting me in the back of my head. Eventually I’ll grow up and own my bully.

Appeal to your Higher Game

Have you tapped into your higher game? Maybe you aren’t sure if you have or not. Maybe you aren’t exactly clear what “Higher Game” even is.

At its core, “Higher Game” is maintaining the upper hand in social situations. This includes mentally, emotionally and even physically to a certain extent. Higher game is not giving a petty person the shallow satisfaction they seek, whether this be from showing off, posturing, flirting or acting out in some other fashion.

But “Higher Game” is also personal. To have higher game is be self-aware but also aware of the emotional state of those around you. To have higher game is to have class, self-restraint, and self-confidence without being cocky.

When you decide to appeal to your higher game you kill with kindness and win arguments by not having them at all, and instead dismissing them as non-important. You play the long game, a game where instead you beat your opponents by simply living a better life and being prosperous. You ultimately beat your opponents by leaving them in the dust, free yourself of them and instead worrying about yourself.

That isn’t to say you aren’t aware of those who wish you ill will, in fact you are hyper aware of them. Because you are appealing to your higher game, you understand them. But you also know thyself and are free of them.

You brush off your transgressors like sweeping dust from your front porch, quick, effortlessly and with little effort.

Find your higher game.


The kid no one likes.

When I was a kid I had a smart mouth. I was a know it all. I was scruffy and from the trailer park, my clothes always reeked of cigarette smoke and I probably had an annoying tendency to ask too many questions or correct people in a rude way.

I didn’t recognize any of this in myself when I was a kid of course. I figured it out later in life from the parents of childhood friends, and usually through snide remarks. The time that hit me most in the gut was when I saw the mother of my best friend growing up at Costco.

I greeted her and she asked if my kids were as smart mouthed as I was as a kid. My first instinct was to say, “Hey, F@#$ off C@#$” but instead I kept it classy and made light of the backhanded remark. I’ve come a long way since my days as a snippy, smart mouthed child.

Another classic moment came when I was a waiter in college and had to serve the older sister of a former friend. She practically refused to look me in the face the entire time. Was I really that bad!?

Yes, totally.

Today, I see history repeat itself. My sister never experienced the awakening or level of self-realization that I did. She thinks asserting your opinion and throwing your weight around at all costs is the only way, otherwise you’re being walked on or used. She has zero tact and approaches all arguments or disagreements like it’s a no holds bar street fight where anything goes, especially hits below the belt or trying to gouge your opponent’s eyes out.

My sister loses jobs frequently and the jobs she holds are usually less than desirable. Her relationships also tend to end up in shambles. Her first husband abandoned the relationship emotionally while her second husband and she have an unhealthy tit-for-tat, cycle of revenge cheating.  In fact, she is so poor at interpersonal communication that if she happened upon this blog post and realized I was referring to her, she’d be quicker to cuss me out than take the criticisms as constructive at any level.

This weekend I let my sister’s daughter, my niece, come stay at our house. Suddenly I see my juvenile self in full force. She’s a sweet girl, just socially retarded. She is a product of her parents- smart mouthed, intrusive, argumentative, and kind of unpleasant to be around.

As a result, I don’t think she has many friends. Actually I don’t think she has ANY friends. I think the poor kid sits at home all the time being tasked as the babysitter of her little half-brothers. When she came over yesterday, her step-father basically drove up, let her off at the curb and drove away.

My wife and I try to mentor her, teach her better habits, be solid parental examples, but a big part of me is just ready to send her off. It’s a personal challenge, a challenge to perhaps break the cycle.

Maybe I can make a difference for her. She’s the only other female grandchild in the family apart from my two. The rest are little boys who destroy at least one thing in my house every time they visit. Bleh, I hate kids that aren’t my own!

But maybe this one, my niece, I’ll take a plug at shaping and mentoring a bit. I wish I’d had someone to do so for me when I was her age.


Data Brokers are Selling Your Identity

Do you regularly pay with a credit card at the checkout counter? What about use grocery store loyalty cards? Turns out, all that data is being aggregated and used to track you!

You read right. Statistics gathering companies like Acxiom Corp and LexisNexis, which are called Data Brokers, buy up your personal information from credit card companies and retailers and use it to create a profile on you. Then that data is sold to healthcare providers.

On the surface, this might sound amazing! You doctor can use smart predictive methods to stop you from having a heart attack or developing diabetes before it ever happens.

But wait… doesn’t that also mean that the data could be used against you? Suddenly….

  • Your insurance company can charge you more for being a smoker, drinking more than they are comfortable with, or eating too many Little Debbie cakes.
  • The EPA can decide you consume too much fuel and should be put into a higher tax bracket designated for those who emit too much carbon pollution.
  • When switching insurance companies, you could be charged higher premiums for visiting the doctor too often in the past.
  • A potential employer could buy this data and use your pharmacy loyalty card data to determine that you take too many meds and are prone to taking sick time more than they are comfortable.

Hell, I could speculate all day on the way this data could be used against you. I think the ways it could be used against you easily outnumber the ways it is useful by at least 10 to 1.

It makes one seriously consider going to all cash as much as possible. I’ve always been a tin-foil hat wearing kind of guy in this regard anyway, simply from working in IT and knowing the level of detail that can be surmised about a person based on their web surging and computer usage habits.

For example, I could tell that Jane in HR has gall bladder stones, Mike in accounting feels a burning sensation when he urinates and Michelle in finance just recently got engaged just by the crap they search for in Google. Adding in loyalty card and credit card transaction information simply fills in the pieces of the puzzle. Throw in a little cell phone GPS and metadata and suddenly they know more about us than we do ourselves.

We’re suddenly all under a microscope. Maybe it’s time to go off grid a bit. Switch to cash when possible, leave the cell phone at home or in the car when walking about, start using our browsers in private browsing mode and using browser plugins like Disconnect.

Regain a little bit of ourselves and anonymity.


Check out the Bloomberg article on the subject proclaiming HOW GREAT THIS ALL IS!!!!



The Debt Society

Is it reasonable for a member of the first world, in this day and age to consciously decide they’re never going to retire until they simply can no longer work, then proceed to live a life well beyond their means and completely financed by debt?

Quite a few of my peers do this. Maybe they never actually sat down and did the math or gave much thought to it, but nevertheless, they live life in this manner. And I can only assume that they assume that eventually when they are unable to work anymore, the state will take care of them, or perhaps their children… or who cares! Right now they have a gorgeous home, two shiny cars in the garage and a few big screen TVs on the wall.

Our banker/debtor economy rewards us for this behavior. The entire economy revolves around spending and buying. Economic news reports revolve around consumer spending and retail holidays like Black Friday and Christmas (yes your read right! Christmas is a RETAIL HOLIDAY).

Hell, even our presidents get on TV and makes speeches urging us to get out there and SPEND- SPEND-SPEND! Who here remembers when G.W. Bush sent each of us a nice $300 check for each person in your family, encouraging us to go out and boost Wal-Marts quarterly sales numbers!


Further, saving for a rainy day is no longer rewarded. The Federal Reserve has made it so easy for banks to obtain lending cash, they no longer pay competitive interest rates on savings deposits, which they would have traditionally relied on for lending out to others and collecting profits on the spread between the rate they paid you and the rate they charged the next guy.

Today, money in the bank is money losing value. The average rate of inflation far exceeds the rates of interest paid on savings deposits. So what is a saver to do?

This is a question I find myself struggling with quite often. I am naturally a very risk adverse guy. Credit card bills and debt cause me to lose sleep at night. But more and more I can’t help but notice that it doesn’t seem to really matter, just so long as I give into the idea of actually ever quitting my job and drifting off into old age on a permanent vacation called retirement- or hell, just file for bankruptcy. There’s no debtors prison in the US, so why not?

It’s all a balancing act of course, but these are the tussles I have with myself from time to time. The best I know to do is stay grounded, remind myself I don’t need all these things, the retail gorge and glutton fest doesn’t have to be for me just because society encourages it at every turn.

More and more often, I’m turning off the TV, watching fewer movies, caring less and less about the world around me. Focusing more on me, my family, and my friends. Places like Costco feels more and more like a circus each time I visit, the retail circus full of retail circus clowns working all week and living for the weekend when they can go spend all the fruits of their time and labor spent toiling away during the long, uneventful weeks where all we do is dream of Friday, and when we get to go shopping again….


IRS Email Scandal – Does Sonasoft reveal what happened?

Today I was reading Sonasoft’s blog post denying that they have the IRS’s email archives and I noticed a few nuances that I wanted to point out. Their main point that is repeated several times is as follows:

“Sonasoft does NOT have IRS email. Sonasoft NEVER had access to IRS email.”

This is interesting because they stress that Sonasoft does not currently have IRS email (which is true) and that they never had ACCESS to IRS email. They do not say that they “never had” IRS email or that the email wasn’t archived – only that they did not have access. Presumably because the IRS was using a Sonasoft product (SonaVault) and not the Sonasoft arching service.

I believe that this is just another instance of performative language that is “legally accurate”, but purposely deceiving. They never deny that data was deleted or archived on their servers.

The “access” language is interesting to me because I believe Sonasoft is attempting to tell everyone what likely happened.

Sonasoft has safeguards and special algorithms to protect the SonaVault Email Archive from mischievous IT administrators who might be tempted to delete or tamper with the archived email. Any attempt to delete or modify the SonaVault email archive will capture the altered text, date stamp the attempt, and send out various alerts to IT personnel and management that an attempted breach occurred; the original email will not be changed in any way. The only way that email can be deleted from the archive is through SonaVault’s expiration policies. The Administrator can set retention policies to purge the archive of emails that have reached an expiration date, which is often set to be a seven-year period.

Basically, as I read it, Sonasoft is saying that they did not have access (i.e., did not have admin access to change the policy settings), but it is probable that an IRS admin did. Which is what I think happened. Someone inside the IRS was probably told to change the configurations to dump email archives.

Sonasoft also gives us the key to finding out who deleted the files right in the blog post:

There are many options to safeguard expired email, and purging the email requires several steps so that email cannot be ‘accidentally’ deleted. In addition, all purge policies are recorded and become part of the permanent log that cannot be tampered with.

They key to understanding who deleted the IRS emails and by extension who ordered the files to be deleted is in the administrative logs. A savvy lawyer should subpoena the administrative logs, determine which administrator changed the configuration settings to delete the archived emails, and determine who made the decision to do so.

Kids Complicate Things

Turn on your favorite rap artist’s latest album and you’ll probably hear at least a line or two reminiscing about being an angry little boy whose dad ran out on him and his mother. I grew up around a lot of these broken kids. One kid I knew, who was only 14 at the time and already openly gay and sexually active was one of these fatherless victims, his father gone, his mom in her own drug induced world. That kid didn’t have a kitchen floor. Literally, the floor in the kitchen of his double wide trailer had rotted away.

Other kids I knew had dads who beat the shit out of them. I guess getting the shit beat out of you might be better than abandonment though. Perhaps something is better than nothing at all, contemplating the grand mystery of why you weren’t good enough to stick around for, for an entire lifetime.

I look at my own children today and they break my heart with love. They cause me to well up with such emotion that it almost incites rage in my soul when I hear about kids whose fathers have abused or ran away from them.

Last night I went in my girl’s room and laid with each of them as they slept. I rubbed their backs, buried my nose into their little head of hair and just breathed it in… then kissed each on the cheek and snuck off before I woke them up.

While I laid beside my girls, I thought about something I remembered the economist Steve Levitt, from the Freakanomics podcast, say while discussing the loss of his one year old son many years ago. He said that losing a child never gets easier, it never stops hurting, it continues to hurt every single day. You just learn to cope with it and keep living.

I feel Steve’s pain. I couldn’t stand it. It’s the one challenge I imagine not being able to overcome. It is the one thing that would drive me to the brink- losing one of my children.

So then how does a man walk away from one willfully? How does a father ever willfully harm his child?

It really takes a fucking pathetic puddle of puke to do so.

Having children and loving them deeply and oh so selfishly that it shakes you to the core is to feel the essence of life.

Maybe it’s biological, maybe it’s spiritual. I don’t care. I’m just glad I had the opportunity to feel it.


Why A One-Size-Fits-All Minimum Wage Doesn’t Work For America

It seems to me that federally enforced on-size-fits-all minimum wage legislation is an ineffective way for policy makers to improve the standard of living for this country’s people.

I completely agree that something needs to be done. There are a thousand different ways we could improve the standard of living for the entire country. Simple and effective ways we could close the income gap between the richest and the poorest among us, but $10.10 an hour isn’t one of them. Frankly, it’s lazy policy making.

$10.10 an hour means different things in different parts of the country:

I think it is difficult for people in different parts of the country to understand what $10.10 an hour means to one another. Someone in New York City probably thinks that $10.10 an hour is slave wages while someone in Jackson, Mississippi (capital of MS) probably considers $10.10 an hour a livable wage. That is because the average cost of living varies wildly from region to region in the United States.

Average Cost of Living

Housing Prices Vary Wildly Across Major Cities: 

We can quickly compare median sales prices for homes across the country (source):

City Median Sale Price
Manhattan, NY $1,175,000
Jackson, MS $184,502
Seattle, WA $435,000
Atlanta, GA $245,000
San Francisco, CA $945,000

Gas Prices Vary Wildly Across Major Cities: 

We can quickly compare gas prices across the country (source)

City Regular Mid Premium Diesel
Manhattan, NY $4.052 $4.216 $4.354 $4.479
Jackson, MS $3.440 $3.642 $3.812 $3.737
Seattle, WA $4.035 $4.152 $4.255 4.109
Atlanta, GA $3.692 $3.871 $4.045 $3.893
San Francisco, CA $4.225 $4.342 $4.440 $4.291

Note: There are similar variances for food and clothing costs.

It is important to realize that these major variances are across major cities. If you compare rural areas to cities the variance is even more dramatic. So why does anyone expect a one-sized-fits-all minimum wage to work across the country?

The Solution: A Livable Wage that Fits

If we want to increase the minimum wage it seems like we need to make an effort to understand what that wage is in each part of country. We should not pick a number that everyone is expected to implement across the board. The country is to diverse for that to be successful.

What may be a fit for Seattle, WA would probably be overly burdensome to businesses in Jackson, MS. What may work in Jackson, MS would probably be insufficient in Manhattan, NY. So why do we treat wages the same when costs across the country are provably and undeniably different? This makes no sense to me.

Instead, it seems like we should empower our communities and local policy makers to actin the best interest of their constituents by providing the people living there with critical data and information to make better decisions for themselves. And if we are going to implement something federally (which I don’t think we should) – shouldn’t we at least make an effort to make it work for everyone?

We are a great country because of our diversity. There is something, somewhere, for everyone. We have always embraced that mantra. I don’t think we should stop now.